Veterans' Day '08: Seacoast Salutes Our Heroes

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By Liz Premo, Atlantic News Staff Writer

Atlantic News, Friday, November 14, 2008

[The following article is courtesy of the Atlantic News]

(Editor's Note: Quotations from "What Veterans Day Means to Me" essays, written by Marston School students, appear in italics.)

HAMPTON -- In what has long been an annual Seacoast area tradition, local Veterans were honored for their military service at a number of Veterans Day events held on Monday and Tuesday of this week.

Schools, towns and organizations conducted ceremonies which recalled Veterans' sacrificial service to the United States, as well as their courage and commitment to keeping America free while serving in the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Merchant Marine and Coast Guard. Color guards, special presentations, tributes, musical selections and keynote speakers reflected the honor bestowed upon the guests of honor.

"I love America, but' if it had not been for Veterans and the men and women who used to be, and are, in the military, America would probably not be here. Veterans' Day is not some holiday that we celebrates for the heck of it."

At Hampton Academy, a student-hosted Veterans' Day assembly organized by teacher Christina Hamilton included a reading of "The History of Veterans' Day" and a PowerPoint presentation of "Home: America the Beautiful." American Legion Post #35 Commander Ralph Fatello addressed the audience, recalling a story shared by Sen. John McCain during the recent presidential campaign about his experiences as a POW, and telling how Sen. Barack Obama's grandfather served under Gen. George Patton during World War II.

"The Veterans fought to keep us safe from people who wanted to harm us or take await our rights as Americans. I am proud to be an American and to have brave soldiers in this war. I am proud of our soldiers for keeping me and my family safe."

Hampton Academy's School Resource Officer Alex Reno shared about his "exploding pride for America" in the wake of 9-11, the impact made by his interaction with the family of Tom MacGinness (who was a co-pilot on American Airlines Flight 11, which terrorists flew into the World Trade Center) and his eventual enlistment in the Air Force. In addition, a special "Tribute to a Hero" was paid to US Army Veteran John Holman, past Chaplain of Post #35 and a Hampton Academy alumnus. A standing ovation followed this presentation, which included different photographs of Holman throughout the years, flashed upon a screen while the hymn "Amazing Grace" played.

"Veterans risk their lives to protect our country. They have the courage to go out and fight for the United States of America. Without them our great country wouldn't be like it is now."

At Marston School, local Veterans joined grade 3-5 students in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, and the singing of the National Anthem and "America" at an assembly held in the gymnasium. The program, organized by music teacher Gus Carlson, featured the top entries in an essay contest for which students shared "What Veterans' Day Means to Me."

"Veterans' Day is a very special holiday. It honors men and women who have left their homes, their families, just to give us, the people of America, the chance to be free."

Marston students also sang an "Armed Forces Medley," during which Veterans stood up for the selection representing their particular branch of military service. Guest speaker, Commander Fatello presented a certificate to recent Troops to Teachers award winner, Marston SPED teacher Judy Sullivan. They both led the entire assembly in the traditional chant, "USA! USA! USA!"

"The Veterans are what keep America alive. So don't just flop on the couch and watch TV. Get out there and celebrate on American soil. These men and women are heroes. Honor them, please."

Veterans' Day observances continued on Tuesday morning, when Post #35 conducted the traditional four-town ceremonies, beginning at the New Hamshire Marine Memorial statue at Hampton Beach and continuing on to Hampton Falls, North Hampton and Hampton in front of the Global War on Terror Memorial on the grounds of the Post's Legion Hall at 69 High Street. Hampton Academy student Elaine Weatherby sang The National Anthem, and her uncle, Mark Weatherby played "Taps." Color guards from Post #35, the Boy Scouts and the MJROTC program at Winnacunnet High School joined first responders and community members in honoring the Veterans that gathered with them.

"Veterans are very special people who have served in wars in the past and the present. 1 feel that Veterans need to be honored especially for all they have done. We need to remember that all Veterans are important because of the sacrifices they have made to fight for our country."

Keynote speaker, Major Michael Petruzziello gave a patriotic and heartfelt speech, offering his gratitude to Post #35 for keeping local Veterans in the forefront and peppering his remarks with references to recent current events: "Recently, 'bailouts' and 'rescue packages' have been in the forefront of our, news headlines," he said. "Today we honor the men and women who have selflessly 'bailed' all of us out over the course of our nation's history. Their parachutes certainly weren't golden, and you can't put a dollar value on their personal sacrifices. They accepted the consequences of their actions, and they did so without complaint."

"So on this Veterans' Day and every Veterans' Day to come, I will hang my American flag and salute all of my heroes of the United States of America."

"As we honor our Veterans on this special day," said Major Petruzziello, "let us hope and pray that every American takes a moment to reflect on the gift of freedom that we as Americans enjoy each and every day, and remember that it is the service and sacrifices of our Veterans that earned that freedom."

"We will always remember the special people who served our country. They volunteer to save the United States. They. fight for America because they love our amazing country, and I would like to thank them."

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